In all our sanctuaries we sit at risk

The Scottish Referendum : odd thoughts


The campaign has not just energised Scots and many more – it will surely have embittered many, too. How will Scotland fare once the decision is made and the “sides” stand back from the barricades, the losers looking at the winners in the eye ? Will they help each other put the barricades away ?

This bullying talk about money in the last few days does not sound right or even relevant to me. The importance of the decision does not rest with money. It’s a bogey being used and is not helpful to either cause. Scotland sounds to be economically viable whatever way the decision goes.

The cause of Scottish Independence is precious to many people all over Scotland, a preciousness that has nothing to do with money. It has helped to keep languages alive – Gaelic, Shetlandic. It keeps people alive to roots and history and – if not to who they are – then to the wonder and specialness of how they got here. But does a creative and healthy sense and valuing of individuality and difference require actual severance ?

What does Independence really mean ? That for me is the trouble. It doesn’t seem to mean anything of real substance. It doesn’t mean protection from Right Wing Free Marketeers from the south, neither Thatcher nor Cameron nor Johnson, nor Murdoch, nor Merkel, nor the global markets. That is delusion, however understandable. Just as you can’t change an idea by bombing it, neither can you change it by building a wall in front of it. You can only change it by engaging with it, finding, proving, making it wrong, dispelling it, leaving it behind.

Above all and essentially, Independence means the building of a frontier and dividing line where there wasn’t one before. On this side of a frontier is One ; on that side of the frontier is Other. All too easily and quickly that becomes Us this side, Them that ; and next comes Friend this, Enemy that. Not always, of course. As someone has pointed out, Eire created a frontier some decades ago and more peace followed than had existed before. But there was war before, in Ireland. There is no war here.

We have too many frontiers already, too much Strangeness and Otherness. Yes, we need to know who we are, where we stand, what we mean, what signify, our unique and separate value. But fences and separation don’t ultimately help with that. They can help drag enemies apart but no more than that. More complex answers and solutions are needed for our modern uncertainties, and they have far more chance of being successful if we reach for them collectively.

Or, thinking down the opposite route, why not go the whole hog ? Divide Mercia from Northumbria, East Anglia from Wessex ? Lets rush backwards for comfort’s sake and cover the country with defensive dykes and sentries and castle keeps…

And with Scotland divided and safe from England, it’s only natural for Mercia, Northumbria, East Anglia and Wessex to separate from the EU, since separation and division are what we like ; they make us feel safe.

In reality, they just add to our danger. They are an illusory change and only distract us from the real and far more significant changes we need to make.